Welcome to the blog that's all about me (and that means a lot of NASCAR, college football and more NASCAR)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Here’s to You: The reason we do what we do

I was standing in Charlotte, N.C. on the second day I had off from football for the short summer break listening to Rascal Flatts sing hit after hit during their stop in the other Queen City on their tour this summer. Rascal Flatts has a song called “Here’s to You” where they say their fans are “the reason we do what we do.” Now that our football season is over and I have some more time to share thoughts and opinions on NASCAR and more, I can tell you the reason we all do what we do, and some fun behind the scenes things from road trips this season.

Myself and the 2016 UC video staff before our final home game
We started working on August 1st, and haven’t taken a day off or away from the office since that day. That’s a period of four months. In that 122-day period we worked long hours to do everything we could in our office to help players, coaches and other staff members on a variety of projects.

If you follow me on Twitter or see any of my Snapchat stories on road trips you know I leave a day ahead of the team and I get the opportunity to get everything set at the road venue before the team arrives. Greg Bruner and myself will some day write a book about our adventures as the advance guys, getting things set at the hotel, assisting our equipment staff when they’ve needed help, and most of all, getting to navigate some of the cities we travel to using just a cell phone and some good guesswork.

Our job is so behind-the-scenes that one of our bus drivers (from Cincinnati) this past weekend in Tulsa admitted that even though he loved college football before he started driving our support staff bus on a regular basis to away games that you never realize as a fan all the logistics that go into a college football game. We have the opportunity to play 12 games a year, and very few folks get to see all the hard work that goes into a game—home or away—that makes what happens on your TV happen each and every week.

There’s doctors, equipment managers, trainers, video staff members and operations folks at each football playing school across the country. While none of us operate in the same way, most of us operate in similar ways, and each of the roles listed above (and even those I may have overlooked) all play a part in helping to put together a game experience for players and coaches, the real reason we all do what we do.

Being behind-the-scenes, as I have often mentioned here, is fine with most of us. We don’t need our name up in lights or even care to be mentioned by anyone in the media corps. We do what we do because we enjoy it, we love working with the folks we work with, and we enjoy seeing our players and coaches succeed on and off the field.

If we didn’t enjoy working with the people we worked with we wouldn’t have spent Thanksgiving Day in Tulsa, Oklahoma with our staff. We wouldn’t skip family parties and outings during the season (and “offseason”) if we didn’t enjoy our jobs and the reason we do what we do.

I haven’t updated the blog that often during the past 120-plus days because I’ve been working on a lot of things, work obviously being the top of that list. Other things I’ve been working on will soon be blog posts I’m sure (including the fact that hopefully soon I’ll be buying a house so I’ll write about that process through my eyes) and I hope I can get back to regular updates here on NASCAR and all the other things, both random and related, that I set out to write about many years ago.

The reasons we do what we do in this college football world are many. Players, coaches, staff and administrators all know the hours we put in, and we know the hours they put in as well as we all work toward our numerous goals. Seeing players develop on and off the field is fun. Getting to know coaches and players off the field is enjoyable as well.

To quote Rascal Flatts, “they’re the heart and the soul and the reason we do what we do.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

NASCAR History in Awesome Season Finale

When NASCAR announced in 2014 that the oft-maligned Chase for the Sprint Cup would feature eliminations and a winner-take-all finale many fans were skeptical. However, the first two seasons of finales at Homestead-Miami Speedway included amazing racing and intense finishes as Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch captured their first titles in the Cup Series.

Johnson at Indianapolis
Sunday was no exception to the recent drama-filled finishes in the Cup Series season finale as Jimmie Johnson drove away from the field on an overtime restart to win his record-tying seventh Cup title, tying NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. as the only other drivers to have accomplished the feat.

I am a huge fan of NASCAR, and I have been for over 20 years now. Even without my favorite driver competing anymore, I was glued to the TV in my office for the final portions of the race as Carl Edwards, Joey Logano, Busch and Johnson all duked it out in the top five for the race win and the title.

It was scintillating TV, the kind of drama that only the best Hollywood writers could have dreamt up. It was, to quote NASCAR President Brian France years ago, a “game seven moment.”

The intensity that each driver and team showed as they chased the checkers was palpable from watching on TV and checking live Twitter feeds from fans and media members gathered in Homestead to watch the championship unfold.

Edwards at Bristol
With ten laps left Carl Edwards could see his first Cup title in his grasp and on a restart didn’t get quite a good enough jump on Logano. Logano, also trying to seize his first title, jumped to Edwards’s inside quarterpanel. The two tangled, resulting in Edwards wrecking and ending the Missouri native’s chances to win his first title.

Edwards then did something very few folks would have expected to see, walking to Logano’s pit box to shake the hand of crew chief Todd Gordon and wish them luck in their bid to win. It was something Edwards’s mom said she wasn’t shocked to see when USA Today NASCAR writer Jeff Gluck talked to her after the incident.

Edwards took the blame for the accident and chalked it up to good, hard racing for the title, something that all NASCAR fans had to have appreciated when they watched it unfold (no matter how loudly I may have yelled during the wreck). In the end, Logano pitted for new tires and got a great jump on a restart with a few laps to go, but couldn’t get to Johnson. A wreck deep in the field brought out the caution and led to overtime.

Johnson, once deemed “Superman” by then-Hendrick Motorsports teammate Mark Martin at Indianapolis, set sail to capture the race win and historic title.

“I told Jimmie, I wish Dad were here to shake his hand,” said teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. to NASCAR.com. “He would certainly love the type of driver he is, I know that for sure.”

While we begin the long offseason without NASCAR, we can bask in the glow of what was a certainly awesome, certifiably intense and crazy, epic battle for the title in Homestead. If you like NASCAR—even if you don’t like Jimmie Johnson—you certainly had to be in awe of the way the race played out for the title.

Johnson said he was speechless when asked to reflect on winning his seventh title. The crowd in Homestead roared for him as he celebrated. Me? I couldn’t figure out the exact words to use to describe the white-knuckle experience of watching the race at home.

It was awesome to see though. And it was historical.
I want to write more about my experiences in the 2016 NASCAR season as well as get caught up on everything that has happened in the past few weeks. Unfortunately my job has been quite consuming, but hopefully I can find time to write as the “offseason” approaches us. Thanks for tuning in.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Declan Sullivan’s legacy will never be forgotten

Often I sit at my laptop and think up blog posts to write when I have some free time. Usually I have some thoughts to share about NASCAR or my job in college football. You’d be shocked at how many blogs I’ve had planned for this year that fall by the wayside. There’s not enough time to sit and write or by the time I get my thoughts on paper the relevance of them has faded away.

However, there’s one day a year I know I’ll have the time to sit back and pen a blog because that day elicits a ton of memories and emotions for me. On this day six years ago my job became national headline news for all the wrong reasons.

In South Bend, Ind. it was a windy day and first-year Irish head coach Brian Kelly, who had been here at UC for my first three years of school, decided to hold practice outdoors. Declan Sullivan, a 20-year-old student filmer, went to his post to film practice just as I did back at that time. Enormous gusts of wind toppled the lift Sullivan was on and the fall lead to fatal injuries for Sullivan.

Notre Dame Stadium
I remember where I was and what I was doing the night of the accident. I remember all the thoughts and text messages I shared with coworkers that night and the next few days. I remember feeling almost numb that a situation so grave and so near to me happened to people who had been around me just a year earlier.

My job was plastered on ESPN and other news and sports websites. Columnists called for Kelly’s head while journalists asked questions of why Sullivan was up in the air on a lift in such windy conditions.

No reporter knew better than ESPN’s Ryan McGee who penned a story titled “Up In The Wind” about the life and times of people like me behind the lens of a camera. McGee knew because he was “one of us.” He was a student just like Sullivan. While wild reports and claims flew from folks who had no clue what the job entailed McGee thoughtfully explained everything to anyone who read his piece.

The 2015 UC Video Staff in Hawaii
I’ve spoken to McGee multiple times since finding out he was a college football video guy like myself. He told me that he felt like he had an obligation to tell the story of those of us who are seemingly hidden behind the scenes in college football programs across the country.

It’s no secret to me that we are a tight-knit group of professionals all striving to do our best to help our coaches and players be the best they can be on the field. As I’ve grown up and grown in my role I’ve found out just how helpful and awesome my fellow video coordinators can be. I usually don’t go a day in the calendar year where I don’t hear from at least one other video coordinator.

Sometimes we ask each other for help with work-related problems and other times we call, text, e-mail or use social media platforms to catch up on life outside football.

Last year on this weekend I joined many fellow video coordinators across America by wearing green pins with a label on them in memory of Sullivan. My staff all gathered for a photo before our game against UCF showing off our pins.

A look at the ribbons we wore last year
See, our job is different than many other jobs in college football. We have no bearing on the outcome of the game as the game wears on. We enjoy helping one another out. Usually my students will chat with the opposing team’s video staff during TV timeouts and generally they find out that we’re all pretty much the same people. Sure we love winning, but someone usually loses in football, and win or lose we help each other out.

Declan Sullivan’s legacy will live on to those of us who remember the accident that unfortunately claimed his life. Every school in America pays closer attention to safety now.

I’ve been to South Bend a few times, and each time I have visited I have stopped by the Declan Sullivan memorial outside the Notre Dame football facility. I never met Declan Sullivan, but I feel like he was just like me, or any of the students I currently oversee.

He was dedicated to his job. He loved his job. He loved his school. He loved being a part of the team, something bigger than himself, a family of sorts.

Now that I’ve grown up a little and have the ability to lead a group of students I have a greater appreciation for the job I did when I was younger. While the job has changed from video tapes to digital editing and high definition film over standard definition film, the roles of students haven’t changed.

Sadly, on this day, we memorialize and remember a young man who died tragically far too young as he stood in a similar position as one I held. We remember a young man who wanted nothing more than to be a part of something bigger than himself and something that he could be proud of.

On this day we pause to remember a young man whose name and legacy will forever have impacted our profession. Declan Sullivan has had quite an impact on me, and I’ll never forget his legacy for as long as I’m holding the job I currently have.

In the past few years I’ve written numerous blogs like this from the heart. I’ve shared numerous thoughts on this day for the past five years. Below are links to each year’s blog posts on this poignant anniversary of a day we all wished hadn’t happened.

I never know the best way to close these blogs. I know though that, like me, Declan Sullivan was a Catholic young man who enjoyed college football. Today and this weekend I know he’ll be in the thoughts of every video staff in America as we go out and do the job he loved doing at stadiums across the country, living the dream he once lived.